Roy Cokayne

The reintroduction of the Datsun brand to South Africa by Nissan, through the launch of a new passenger vehicle model priced at less than R100 000 by the end of next year, is set to have positive spin-offs for both Nissan South Africa and the local automotive industry.

This includes the possibility of a Datsun model being manufactured at Nissan SA’s plant in Rosslyn near Pretoria.

Vincent Cobee, the corporate vice-president at Nissan Motor Company of Japan, said on Friday that he was not ready to comment on whether the Datsun model would be launched in South Africa as a fully built up import.

However, Nissan SA managing director Mike Whitfield indicated that with the local launch of the Datsun model only about 18 months away, it would be impossible for Nissan SA to produce the vehicle locally. “But this is the start of the journey and the intention is to build the brand a lot bigger than what we are talking about today,” he said.

Cobee confirmed there was a possibility a Datsun model might be manufactured at the Rosslyn plant in the future.

“The plan is being worked out for South Africa and is likely to evolve in coming years because Nissan Motor Company has very broad and large ambitions for Africa.

“It has an existing set of industrial assets in Africa and it will be very keen on maximising the use of all these assets. The announcement today is about launching a new brand and car in South Africa.

“All those elements will be augmented and backed up by a diverse industrial strategy as we move forward,” he said.

Cobee said the South African market and broad African market had a competitiveness challenge but hopefully its competitiveness would improve as the economy and market grew.

Whitfield stressed the relaunch of Datsun into the South African market was fundamental to Nissan SA meeting its growth targets, which, excluding sales by Associated Motor Holdings, was to increase its domestic market share from 9.8 percent currently to 16 percent by the end of 2016. South Africa will be the fourth market in which Datsun will be relaunched after India, Russia and Indonesia early next year.

This follows a decision in 2010 to reintroduce the Datsun brand as part of the Nissan Motor Company’s ambitious Nissan Power 88 mid-term plan to achieve 8 percent global market share and 8 percent operating profit by the end of its 2016 financial year.

Cobee stressed the return of Datsun was integral to Nissan Motor Company’s expansion in fast-growing markets, which were those where a substantial portion of the population was accessing car ownership.

He said car ownership was very developed in western Europe, North America and east Asia but these markets were mostly a replacement demand market and accounted for about 80 percent of global vehicle sales in 1999/2000.

Cobee said the total market was expected to double by 2020.

He said the aim was for the Datsun brand to account for between a third to half of total Nissan vehicle sales in India, Russia and Indonesia by the middle of 2017.